‘Free Software Solutions’ Revisited

Inevitably and usually at the beginning of every semester, students will ask how they can view or create MS Office documents if they do not have MS Office installed on their laptops or home computers.  Here is a past blog post on some options you can explore.  If you need assistance, feel free to ask us!


Free Software Solutions

As much as we LOVE to have students working in the MVCC Library, students may want or need to work from home.  Not everyone has access to MS Office on their laptops, netbooks, or desktop computers.  Furthermore, the electronic file formats that instructors use on Blackboard or other teaching and learning technologies may vary, and sometimes, this may create issues for students who do not own the latest version or type of software that supports these files.

Microsoft has released a number of free applications that allow users to view (meaning read-only) or to convert MS Office files to other compatible file formats for editing in different programs.  Additionally, one can find a bunch of  free, albeit reputable and reliable productivity tools that let users save or export documents as MS Office files, and are available online for quick and easy download.

Work in the Cloud

There are a number of free online applications available. Work online and save your work there for easy access from any location with an internet connection.  Save and/or export to MS Office files.

Windows Live Hotmail is connected to student email accounts here at MVCC.  Through  one’s student account, which is powered by Hotmail, students have access to the online version of Office where you can view, edit, and share Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote files.  Also be sure to check out SkyDrive for free, online storage.

Google Docs allows the user to create and edit web-based documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.

Zoho offers a suite of online web applications.

ThinkFree.com provides a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation package.

Programs Available for Download

Access or Edit MS Office Files

For those who need to read or edit documents generated on Microsoft Office, but do not own the software, Microsoft has a number of document viewer and file converter apps available for Word, Excel, PowerPoint.   See: Office Online File Converters and Viewers

Docx2Rtf is a freeware file converter for MS Word, as well as OpenOffice. It enables the user to open files and convert them to RTF or PDF format.  Docx2Rtf does not require MS Office or OpenOffice installed in order to work. Word’s docx files and OpenOffice files will be converted with formatting, but without images.

We have not forgotten about our Mac users! The Open XML File Format Converter for Mac can convert MS Word documents, Excel workbooks, and PowerPoint presentations, making it possible to open, edit, and save such files in earlier versions of Office for Mac.

Also, remember current versions of Apple’s iWork (NOT a free productivity suite), allow users to open and save files in all of the MS Office formats.

Free Alternatives to Microsoft Applications

AbiWord is a free word processing program similar to MS Word that works on both Windows and Mac OS.

Gnumeric is a spreadsheet program. It allows the user to import and export data in several file formats, including Microsoft Excel and it offers some customizable features.  This works on Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems.

OpenOffice.org is a full software suite that includes word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more.  This works on Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems.

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